The Biggest Lessons of 2019

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The Biggest Lessons of 2019

Did you hear that???

That was the sound of RELIEF as 2019 passed by 😅. Another year of Donald Trump (saying WHAT now???), the Marvel Universe breaking fans’ heads with their next plot twist, and Apple releasing their latest $9,999.99 high-tech blob that was exactly the same as last year’s blob (or this year’s other blob).

Y’know, I never realised all the struggles we went through this year until I was thinking back to the pure insanity that went on and discovered: I couldn’t even REMEMBER whether all the kids were eating Tide Pods this year or in 2018!!! 😖😬😱😄

But all things considered, it’s okay that the world is going to the dogs, because I personally had a GREAT 2019. 😉 Don’t get me wrong. I went through my own hard challenges just like the world. But I also grew more than I could have ever IMAGINED. And I literally mean that. More. than. I. could. have.

IMAGINED.

At this point last year, the old me couldn’t ever have thought about what this new me would turn out to be like. *The old me also couldn’t have predicted all the personal and worldly disasters that would come up, but I’m glad about that.😄

But because of all this incredible growth I’ve been lucky enough to have over the past year, I really really really wanted to reflect on 2019. And that’s a lot of hard thinking, to reflect back over an entire year 😉.

So if you were looking for another article on 2019’s 10 Funniest Memes or 10 Most Serious Disasters, this isn’t the right place for you. But if you want to hear the story of the average teenager (or at least ‘average’ in the bubble that is the developed world) turning 16 and realising all the complicated parts of life he never knew before, this is about to get a lot more deep.

Here’s a quick roadmap of all the lessons that shaped me in 2019:
  • There are no subjects or assignments in life. Everything is a complex, convoluted, connected system that you can’t memorise.
  • People don’t measure net good or bad. They measure how well you conform to their very specific criteria.
  • An attempt that didn’t work isn’t a failure. It’s a sign pointing closer to the right path forward.
  • Most problems are just another example of the same issue coming up again.
  • Your environment is everything. It can make you grow faster than you could have IMAGINED or it can keep you stuck in a cycle of low expectations.
  • Learn the rules before you break them.
  • Once you start working at higher standards, you can’t tolerate anything worse.
  • You can have almost anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want
  • To get a reward. you have to know its price and be willing to pay it.
  • There’s no point in being jealous of someone unless you’re 100% absolutely willing to switch lives with them.
  • Everyone thinks that they’re special, but most people really aren’t
  • Most of us have every reason in the world to embrace gratitude.
  • Your experiences make up 0.00000001% of all experiences in the world, but 80% of how you think the world works
  • Genius in your head is not equal to genius in real life.
  • The best memories start without a plan.
  • The destinations aren’t what make life great. It’s the messed-up journeys along the way.
  • The most valuable gift you can get is having people crazy enough to support you through all of life’s craziness.
  • The hardest part of getting something done is starting. Just do it and figure the rest out later
  • If an action has great upside and little downside, just DO it even if the chances of that upside seem low.
  • The only way to raise your limits is to work right up to them
  • Every project you speed through and half-effort to get it over with is an injury to the future you
  • If it’s in your control, why worry? If it’s out of your control, why worry?
  • Everything comes to an end. Why mourn it instead of celebrating a new beginning?
  • The most powerful skill isn’t to hold strong through life’s challenges. It’s to adapt and flow around whatever life throws at you.
  • Forget everything you have or haven’t done in the past. Now, ALL that matters is what you do next.
  • My definition of success: to make a meaningful impact on the people around me and people that come after me.

^ EVERY single one of those has a story behind it.

I won’t just make this an endless list of stories, though. I’ll specifically talk about five types of lessons:
  1. About the world and our society
  2. About myself and how I fit in to the world.
  3. About other people.
  4. About hard work
  5. And about philosophy

Just before those 5 lessons though, I want to describe the me that started off at the beginning of 2019.



Me One Year Ago (January 1, 2019):

This was grade 10 (age 15) and I was the model of an overambitious high-school kid. I didn’t know much about much, but I could memorise information well enough to get high marks… so I was perfectly happy believing I knew everything! 😁

School was Priority #1 and I was starting to think about those additional checkboxes to hit for university. Every extracurricular you could think of, I was in it.

  • Math club? ✔️.
  • Social equity team? ✔️✔️.
  • African rhythm and drumming ensemble? ✔️✔️✔️.

And don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed some of these things. I made a lot of my first friends in high school through clubs like these. But I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t have any specific goal beyond “do what others think is good” in school/university. 😕

Outside of school, I had a pretty run-of-the-mill life. I didn’t really have many friends or go out to parties like the stereotypical teenager 🎆. I did mindlessly scroll through social media for hours every day like the stereotypical teenager 😒. I didn’t worry all that much of what others thought of me or give in to peer pressure like the stereotypical teenager 💪.

You could say my life was dull enough to make 2019 seem like 1984 ;-)

That being said, I did have some very good things going for me. One was that I had developed a pretty decent work ethic, ambition, and curiosity - even if I sometimes was working on the most mind-numbing things ever 😬. Another was that I had thought a lot about my moral compass and drive - or at least a lot more than the average teenager I knew.

I was pretty sure I wanted to do things like help others in some way (I didn’t know how), so I’d often do things like volunteer at charities and local organisations. I was also trying to learn more about global scientific improvements that could make people’s lives better.

One major change that was happening in my life at the time was this very specific ‘extracurricular’ that I joined called The Knowledge Society (TKS). *At least, I thought of it like an ‘extracurricular’ back then. The premise of TKS was to be the world’s biggest human accelerator (like accelerators that help businesses grow, but training the youth that would start businesses).

TKS was exposing me to a lot of new ideas at this point. Challenging beliefs like how success in school might not be the best way to prepare for the future and whether it was possible to work on important global problems, even as a 15-year-old.

This was definitely igniting my ambitions to do meaningful work, like helping produce renewable energy. I just didn’t have the confidence to know if that was a feasible goal for me. And again, I was kind of meandering through life, not entirely knowing what to commit to.

Overall: I was a semi socially-awkward, high-achieving kid that was starting to have bigger dreams, but I didn’t have control of my thoughts/actions any more than a leaf blowing around in the wind. 💨🍂

But little did I know how much that one ‘extracurricular’ would go on to COMPLETELY change my mindset and values over the next 12 months. The first big thing I learned more about was how the world works.





1.1 Schools kind of Forget to Teach Life

I’ve been lucky enough to come across a LOT of different areas of knowledge over the past year. Everything from broad disciplines like biology to specialised lessons in data science. And the one thing that started to stick out to me the more I learned was that everything was a complex, connected system that I couldn’t just memorise.

In school, this is hard to realise because everything you learn is nicely segmented into different subjects and all you need to worry about is doing X assignment for Y course. But I can’t remember a single time in all 11 years in the education system where the teacher of Y course left me awestruck by telling me how everything we’re learning relates to a different course.

But when I started working on real-life projects, I realised life doesn’t work like that. There are no subjects or assignments in life. Take what I mentioned about broad biology vs. specialised data science. In school, this was me taking separate courses for computer science and biology. Not once did I think, “I wonder how that AI algorithm could be applied to tracking this mosquito species’ migration patterns???”

But that was exactly what I was trying to do when I co-founded a project called Prohibio Health for Microsoft’s Open AI Challenge. That was one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever taken on and looking back on it, I remember ALL the 1 AM disasters that came up and how we got around them! 😎 You know what I remember from taking biology? Sitting at a desk for 5 hours on a summer afternoon and flipping through 50 pages of a textbook. 😕

That being said, I also learned I couldn’t blame school for all my troubles. As I started to work on more and more real-life projects and saw how all the segmented chunks of knowledge connected, I went back to those same boring textbooks and made my own in-between-the-line connections! We literally could just create navigation algorithms that make their way around obstacles like a fungi’s mycelium.

So how come schools didn’t teach me to do that myself?

Because they have no reason to. Sure, it might be better to actually understand what you’re learning well enough to connect it to other concepts. But when my biology and computer science teachers’ jobs were to JUST make sure I got a magical number at least above 80 on very specific assignments, they would have to be pretty mad to take the extra effort of making sure I understand what I’m learning. Luckily, I’ve had some mad-awesome teachers 😉



1.2 You Can’t Learn to Fall until you Fall

But you can’t get lucky in all parts of life. Yet, all parts of life are like that, where you’re not judged on net good or bad, but how well you conform to very specific criteria. I complained about school earlier and compared it to my multidisciplinary experience working on Prohibio Health. But there were those same evaluations based on very specific criteria in the real world too.

We took Prohibio Health to the DMZ (Ryerson University’s startup accelerator) this summer. During that time, I worked harder than I ever had in my entire life. This one week, I got 30ish hours of sleep over the 7 days.😱 We were always sprinting towards the end goal of our final pitch to win $5K in funding for our project. Day of that final pitch, my cofounder was AMAZING! We developed our website, verified our datasets, designed our infographics… it all went according to plan. We even made it to the Top 5! Unfortunately, the other teams in our cohort who were up there with us had a few technical difficulties, so the results seemed certain to a bunch of people. And then we didn’t make it… the reason being that our project didn’t meet specific feasibility requirements because we wanted to partner with governments.

I have the mic, but my magical cofounder did all the work 😉

That’s how I learned that the world doesn’t measure net good or bad either. You either meet very specific requirements or you don’t. Pass or fail. Do or die. But, honestly, it wasn’t that bad to fail. An attempt that doesn’t work isn’t a failure. It’s just another sign to point us closer to the right direction. So while it was too bad we didn’t pull off the grand prize, no one can take away those amazing memories of sleeplessly frantic nights and fantabulously fun days :-)

* And next time we know not to work with governments 😅

Another surprising thing is that the failure at the DMZ was the result of another failure before it. Three of the founders you saw earlier were interviewing for a position at TDLab that summer (including me)! None of us got in and we were cowed at first. But had we gotten those positions, we wouldn’t have had our amazing experience at the DMZ! One failure led to another.

That also reinforced my idea of the world only caring about specific criteria. The funniest thing happened after the summer at the DMZ. I randomly ran into the person who interviewed me at TDLab… in ANOTHER CITY… at Elevate Canada (Canada’s biggest tech conference). We start talking about life and he suddenly says, “So I’ve got to tell you… we wanted to hire you. The reason why we didn’t was that we wanted to take either two people or none and we couldn’t find anyone else who met [specific criteria 1, 2, 3]...”

That felt nice because at least I knew I theoretically COULD HAVE been qualified for the job 😄 But imagine if I’d gotten in! I never would have had those amazing experiences at the DMZ and I never would’ve learned my lesson about why an attempt that doesn’t work isn’t a failure.



1.3 Life: The Art of Blindly Jumping across Sinking Ships

Another big value to failing a lot this year is getting multiple chances to figure out problems. Getting multiple chances to reflect on these issues helped me validate that most problems in life are just “another one of those” as Ray Dalio likes to call them. What that means is that life has a way of bringing up the same problems again and again, but most of us are too busy panicking to realise it when we run into these problems.

Imagine you were on a sinking ship with a blindfold. That’s what a big disaster in life feels like. And somewhere out there, you know there’s an island where you can be safe, but the only way to get there is by jumping across a series of other sinking ships 😄. The series of ships were all the problems I kept on running into. But what I couldn’t figure out was that once I’d jumped into enough ships, I basically knew how to deal with the whole lot - just keep jumping!

I read Ray Dalio’s book, Principles, when he talked about this (the problems, not the ships ;-) and the idea struck me. But of course, if I read that and I suddenly figured out all the patterns to my problems and how to solve it, it wouldn’t be hard enough 😖 So I put that lesson in my brain on high-alert so I could recognise the patterns to life’s disasters when they hit me in the face.

And then it happened! 🎉

Or I guess, and then it happened 😭. A close friend and I had a major argument about how I could be too micromanaging when we worked together. Every other time something like this happened, I was devastated. I’d always struggled with finding close friends, so it would be like a major loss for me AND a personal attack at the same time.

This time though, I thought about all the previous times this had happened in my life and realised WITHIN 10 MINUTES that this was just another one of those problems. That calmed me down from the verge of disaster and let me think rationally enough to improve my work habits for the next project. I stopped panicking and started planning how I could up my jumping game for the next ship.

The experience felt SO empowering overall, because being able to identify those patterns meant I was controlling how I reacted to problems instead of them just happening to me. You can go through life bumping into one problem and the next, panicking the entire time. Or, you can intentionally figure out what your challenges are, the best way to deal with them, and how you can recognise them the next time around.

That being said, I also have to credit external factors where credit’s due. By that, I mean I never would’ve learned any of these lessons had I still been sitting in random school clubs and lessons, oblivious to what the real world is like. For me to realise these things, I had to change my environment to actually go and do work closer to real life.

That primarily happened due to my new ‘extracurricular’ projects at TKS (which soon became a lot less like ‘extras’ and a lot more like actual life). This put me in positions where I’d run into a lot of different problems and HAVE TO figure them out. And the craziest thing was, before I changed my environment, I couldn’t even REALISE the scope of possibility out there.

Me venturing out into the real world at the first conference I’d ever attended.

I had NO clue what high standards or real problems looked like in the world. All I knew was how to memorise information and recite it back out in assorted formats. And I wasn’t even good at doing that! Take presentations for example. I thought I was a great presenter because I got those nice magic numbers on my report cards, but I didn’t even know what problems I had or what room for growth I had because I couldn’t see beyond the current bubble of my environment.

When I got to TKS, that took an absolute 180 degree turn 😬. Who knew school presentations weren’t like presentations in the business world??? Well, all the people out there in the real world knew, because they were IN that environment, but I couldn’t even CONCEPTUALISE it. It was like being in a sinking ship, but not realise it was sinking so you don’t even TRY to jump to the next one.

Now, presentations are one of the biggest areas where I notice how I’ve grown after having been in different environments. When I see presentations in school now, the bar for success is so low that the poor kids can’t even imagine if there’s any room to grow! I remember talking to this one girl who definitely put in effort into her presentation, but still had room to improve (like with her pacing). So I thought I would tell her about some of the tips I learned…

I started the conversation in a somewhat jokey manner, saying: “Wow, that was really fast! 😊 Do you usually present like that?” Her response was what struck me. She replied, “Yeah 😄, I try to.”

I try to.

She thought it was good to speak too fast - she never even CONSIDERED that it could be a weakness! And how could you blame her??? She’d never been exposed to anything that would tell her otherwise. That’s how I realised how lucky I was to have been exposed to a new environment. I never would’ve even known my standards were too low otherwise, so I couldn’t fix a problem that I didn’t realise.

And it works the other way too. I’m making mistakes right now that I’m oblivious to, because my environment influences what I perceive to be problems and what I don’t. Your environment is everything. It can make you grow faster than you could ever have IMAGINED or it can keep you stuck in a cycle of low expectations.



1.4: How to Deal with Change Well

Now that I had all this new knowledge about what the world is like, I felt superpowered! I thought I’d found my enlightened path, as I arrogantly defied my educational authorities in not caring about their low standards and enforcing my own. Yeah... if you can’t already tell, that’s a dumb reaction for several reasons. 😁

First of all, if you ever think you’ve learned everything, you’re wrong. No holds barred. I was plain wrong. Ray Dalio (the same guy who made me realise the patterns to life’s problems) has a simple lesson about it: at any moment, what you know pales in comparison to what you need to know. There is NEVER a stop to learning new things and if you wander through life thinking a lesson is underrated, the problem is with how you interpret the lesson, not the lesson itself.

I realised this when even with my new-and-improved skills from the real world, I started to get lower marks on every-day school assignments. The reason why was, again, that people don’t measure net good or bad, but how well something conforms to very specific criteria. I was trying to make the best my teachers had ever seen (and in some cases, I came close 😉) - but I was forgetting to get done what they asked me to.

You can’t learn your own rules and throw out all the ones that actually count. You have to learn the standard rules and decide where specifically you’re going to break them. That’s how I started to do better in school while also improving my skills at a higher standard. I would meet the minimum requirements I needed to in my ‘day job’, and then explore uncharted territory at night.

That helped me learn more anyways. If I’d continued thinking like a rebel, I would’ve missed all the lessons dangling right in front of me because they didn’t fit into my set of rules. By being open-minded, I found so much new insight =that I’d never even perceived before. Like I said, I’m lucky enough to have mad-awesome-teachers™. Do you know how many class discussions I’ve hijacked to explore philosophy and ethics in business leadership and technological development??? 😁

Learn the rules before you break them, not just to appease the man but also to avoid missing the knowledge screaming at you to pick it up.

And the best part of changing up your standards is that you have an ingrained evolutionary system in your brain (fine-tuned over millions of years of experimentation) to make sure those higher standards stick around: it’s our good old friend, Habits. Remember Habits? The one that usually gets in the way in the form of bad ones?

Well this year, I learned about the good side of Habits! She’s not that bad once you get to know her 😊. In fact, she even helped me keep up great routines like stretching, taking cold showers, and reflection. Before, it used to be hard to convince myself to do these things, but Habits came along and helped me keep them up thoughtlessly after a while.

Don’t get me wrong. That first time I took a shower, I was mentally screaming on the inside… and maybe the outside too ;-) But after a while, I just loved the rush of trying to minimise the Canadian winter agony by showering as quickly as possible 😉. I cold-showered so easily that when I had to stop one week because I had a cold, I didn’t even RECOGNISE the feeling of turning the shower handle far enough to get hot water!

It sounds simple with the example of cold showers, but when you combine lots of meaningful changes in life (like getting rid of social media, improving work ethic, exercising consistently), you literally become superpowered - WHILE not having to work any harder because of Habits.

Learning all these new things about the world, I found myself changing a lot throughout the year. It was like I was a little leaf adrift in the wind, which was finally starting to blow in a different direction. And while I was out exploring new lands, I had the chance to do a lot of thinking about what it was like being a leaf 😁. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about myself as well.



2.1 Learning to be Realistic with Goals

Now that I was starting to have my ambitions stoked by TKS and then learning that there wasn’t really anything holding me back from working on my own projects at the DMZ, I thought that the sky was the limit. But the sky isn’t the limit. Gravity is.

Yes, there’s nothing to stop you from shooting as high as you want in life. You can have almost anything you want if you’re willing to work hard enough. But there will always be those practical worries that get in the way. There are always going to be a LOT of sacrifices to be made along the way to any one goal. So while you can have almost anything you want, you can’t have EVERYTHING you want.

I had a lot of hard reminders of this myself. I tended to often dream of aiming higher, but lost track of the enormous bounds of gravity I faced. I tried to do everything all at once, but just ended up doing a bunch of things badly. I mentioned how I started to see that come through in my marks in school for a bit.

The problem was that I had to learn to prioritise. I had to ACCEPT that I was going to lose some battles out there. There was no option around it. So the best I could do would be to pick which battles to lose in order to have what I wanted, instead of just letting life’s winds send me whichever way they wanted.

Remember that crazy week at the DMZ? The one where I got 30ish hours of sleep the entire time? Sleep wasn’t the only thing I had to choose to sacrifice. That week, I got a lot done in preparation of our final pitch at the DMZ - working on algorithms, preparing infographics, preparing for Q&As, etc. At the same time, I was working on interviewing 20 people in 7 days for a non-DMZ project that gave me no flexibility.

Well, I chose to win those battles… but with heavy costs. I can’t even begin to tell you how irritated my directors and cofounders were with me for the lack of transparency, always disappearing for random meetings, etc. 😬 That week I got over my perceived limits and learned that I could have more than I ever thought possible. But I also learned that I’d have to make heavy sacrifices to do so.

Every reward comes with a price. If you want the reward, you have to know the price and be willing to pay it. For me, I had to be willing to make those sacrifices in my relationships to get done everything else. The only problem was that I needed to be more intentional about the knowing-the-price part.

For me, knowing the price would be when problems would come up and I dealt with the consequences without planning them through. Instead, I should have been thinking about the consequences beforehand and prepare to deal with them in advance, instead of frantically playing hot-potato with a steaming pile of… consequences without expecting to. 😅



2.2 Accepting Myself, Even with Flaws

Yes, this sounds all cheesy, but I promise I’ll avoid the sappiness. When I say accepting myself, I more so mean not worrying about others. When I ended up in my steaming piles of consequences, it was so easy for me to think that there was just some inevitable thing wrong with me while I looked at the others who had gone on to succeed.

It would start useless feeling of jealousy, where I wished I was more like X or Y talented person. But as Paul Graham put it, we just see some hidden genius in others so that we have an excuse for not being able to do similar things ourselves. After all, it’s much easier to say someone is successful because they’re naturally smarter than you than to say that they were harder-working than you.

But I didn’t know that for a long time. I would just model my life after others who I saw as successful, not realising how many cases were simply examples of greater perseverance rather than greater talent. Eventually though, I found my own way of making sense of how to avoid jealousy; there’s no point in being jealous of someone unless you’re 100% absolutely willing to switch lives with them.

It’s so easy to see others being successful and want to be in their position, but you’d be much better off just going along your own path in life. Imagine actually being in that successful person’s position! We see the rewards of their success, but not the hidden iceberg of hard work and dedication (and some good old luck ;-) that it took to get them there. Imagine having to work that hard 😱 Wouldn’t you rather just not be jealous???

Then, the other hard part of accepting myself was trying to figure out the right balance between being confident vs. being arrogant. When I started to take on challenges beyond the immediate bubble of school, sometimes I didn’t have enough confidence to take on new challenges and other times I was way too focused on past accomplishments to develop new growth.

Eventually, I set up the right balance between these two feelings. The first lesson was to get around any arrogance by reminding myself that everyone thinks they’re special, but most people really aren’t. I had to acknowledge that even with my new growth, I wasn’t all that unique in any one moment.

That lesson didn’t come easily. It took a lot of people calling me out over time to decrease arrogance, but I’m glad they did. The Director of TKS, Navid Nathoo, once asked me, “So what makes you different from everyone else around you?” and I replied back, “I write good essays.” 😂 It sounds funny now, but I ACTUALLY thought that was a good response back then! It took time for me to develop an acceptance of how the present me was always missing some essential skill.

On the other hand, I also had to develop the confidence to take on new challenges. At first, it seems hard to do that when I was always reminding myself I wasn’t all that special, but those reminders were actually the key to building that confidence. When I acknowledged that I had weaknesses in the past and present, it made me MORE motivated to work hard to improve the future me.

One piece of advice I got from Jay Parthasarthy, an Associate Director at TKS, was to consider every moment as an opportunity for growth. No matter how many years I’d lived not being special, every minute was an opportunity to turn my life around. Every minute was another where I could decide that I would take on a new challenge for growth. And that’s what gave me the confidence to take on new projects and trust myself to get over the obstacles.



2.3 Realising my Tininess in a Big Big World

The world’s pretty big. I’ve often tried to imagine how big, but I really really can’t. The closest I’ve gotten is imagining a thousand people at my school - now that’s BIG. We couldn’t even fit everyone into the cafeteria at once for assemblies, so we always had half the school watch at a time. But then my head starts to break as I imagine the dozens of schools just like ours in a city. And then how you could take all those schools and multiply by at least a good 5 or 6 times to get the number of people in a city.

I would continue on about going from cities to countries to the world, but I’m already lost by the time we go from one school to multiple 😕 One amazing visual I saw that made me realise the sheer tininess of myself in this world was this project documenting the number of deaths in World War II.

So what’s the point of me making that point? 😉 It’s to emphasise this; our experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of the world’s experiences. There are over 7.5 billion others with their own complicated lives asides from you and me. Yet, our experiences also make up 80% of how we think the world works. This is the conundrum that breaks my head and keeps me humble enough to realise how likely I am to be wrong in anything I hold true.

It’s impossible for me to understand how the world truly works, so I keep that in mind while trying to take my best guess. Often times, I’m overly optimistic. It was easy for me to win that first scholarship or think starting a ‘company’ is easy based on the smallest side project at the DMZ.

But then I was able to get back to reality when reminding myself of how I was basing my assumptions on a very small part of real life - my own experiences. Until I realised that, I was stuck with too little actual knowledge to make decisions well and too much perceived knowledge to realise I wasn’t making them well.

To get around that, I started to be intentional about learning more about other people’s experiences in life. That starts with being open-minded and just listening to others more and more with every conversation. But I had another, more profound benefit by intentionally seeking to learn about experiences I could never EVEN have imagined.

Often times, I’d watch documentaries about challenges in the developing world. And quite literally, my 0.00000001% of life experiences got nowhere close to understanding these new perspectives I was learning about. How many of us can actually imagine the life of Nigerian petrol smuggler, an illiterate Indian farmhand, or child slaves that work on cocoa plantations on the Ivory Coast???

While trying to grow the breadth of my experiences by learning about these unimaginable lives, I realised that most of us in the developed world have every reason to embrace gratitude. I used to spend hours every day looking at picture-perfect moments on Instagram or reading about the lives of billionaires and feeling jealous.

Now, I instead look at all these experiences which expand my notion of how bad life actually could get and then feel an amazing sense of gratitude for every little gift I have. Am I really going to feel frustrated about ‘slow’ wifi, when teenagers like me in Mali don’t have any Internet so they can’t get news of the dangers of child smuggling? I’m on the other side of the world and I know about the issue, while they don’t even know about the dangers in their non-existent backyards!!! 😮

There are hundreds of reflections like these that I can now think of, after just scratching the surface of these incredibly diverse experiences. Not only does it make me appreciate the fundamentals of life more, but also be one tiny, tiny step closer to more accurately understanding the world.

Even with this increasing awareness though, I had to accept that genius in my head often was ≠ to genius in real life. I used to think that I was pretty smart/good at making decisions at the beginning of the year. That was just because I hadn’t been put in enough challenging situations. Over time, as I started to fail more and more, I developed a healthy fear of being wrong that made me more humble and more rational in decision-making.

Every failure made it easier to deal with the next one. Now, I don’t think I’m as scared of failing if I can use the failure to create a plan to avoid all my errors for next time. Additionally, failures are also hilarious in hindsight 😉 Just three of my assorted hilarious failures this year include:
  1. Once, I cold-called 17 lawyers in a week for some research on the legal industry and NONE would ever pick up. After some fair amount of frustration, someone pointed out that I wasn’t calling their phone numbers, I was calling their fax machines.
    1. I bet the fax machines even thought I was dumb as I tried to leave them voicemails… 😁
  2. My school had the brilliant idea to sell branded water bottles for a fundraiser. It ended up being a flop and we had 200 bottles we couldn’t get rid of. Then, I had a brilliant idea to set up an online trivia event with prizes as a fundraiser. It ended up being a flop too, but at least we managed to give away a few of those bottles in prizes.
  3. A team-mate called me out on not being detailed enough about writing daily work updates. So I completely revamped the design, allotted more time for writing, and even made them bilingual! A week later, he tells me again that I don’t have enough detail. I frantically point to my pages of detail and say, “What’s the problem???” He says, “Oh that’s where you put it… I can’t read French.”

But as great as it was to have less painful and more hilarious failures, the more valuable part of this was training myself to APPRECIATE failures. I honestly liked being able to look back and say, “Oh well, at least I know to fix this the next time around.” It’s so much easier to fix an error than to replicate a success, as Paul Graham puts it.

Adults are so busy with their high-stakes situations that I don’t think they get that privilege. So I’m glad I got to learn these lessons this year while I still had the chance. And because the stakes were lower, I also had the chance to experiment with one of the most dreadful parts of life I can imagine… other people. 😱



3.1 Learning to Put Myself Out There

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the people in my life more than anything - and I mean that. If I had all the material resources in the world, but no one else to simply talk to - I would go insane. That being said, sometimes I end up going insane talking to people too 😄. I was never that comfortable doing things like networking in the professional world or ‘hanging out’ in the teenage world.

While I still have those challenges, I’ve grown a lot through necessity this year. Once I’d started that conversation at that conference, there was no walking away. Once I was in the middle of an adventure with a friend, I might as well make it the best adventure to look back on as possible. So by repeatedly putting myself in these uncomfortable situations, I started to learn some important lessons on dealing with other people.

The biggest thing I realised was that every person you meet knows something you don’t. EVERY. Single. One. I even came up with a rule; if I thought an interaction with another person wasn’t very valuable, I was the one doing something wrong! One of the biggest examples of this came during that week at the DMZ when I interviewed over 20 people.

Half of the time, the meetings would be semi-mediocre. I would be pretty bored and I could tell the others were too. The other half of the time, I had amazingly insightful meetings! 🎉 So I started to walk into meetings trying to predict which one it would be. I remember this one meeting I was walking into with a senior accountant thinking, “There is NO way I—someone trying to develop an AI algorithm—am going to gain anything out of this…”

15 minutes later, we were chatting about how he started out his career researching molecular genetics at laboratories and eventually learned accounting after learning how useful it could be in the industry! I NEVER could have imagined how amazing his story would be, and I still think back to that moment to remind myself how every person has a unique story like that. It’s just up to me whether I unlock that story or not.

Before that week, I used to just treat meetings like a checklist item to tick off in order to get to the ‘real’ goal. That was so stupid! How could I ever have been fine with ACCEPTING that half my meetings wouldn’t be valuable??? 😠 Not only would it practically benefit me from getting others’ specialised insight on anything I work on, but ALSO I would just feel so much more happy in life developing better relationships.

So I started to be more intentional about how I would approach others (professionally and casually) to try to get around the issue. But something odd happened… all my relationships just started to feel like transactions. They felt robotic and automated, instead of creating insightful and positive memories like I intended. The lesson I had to learn was that the best memories start without a plan.

If I started to think about relationships as a means to get valuable information from others (even if I did have well-meaning and non-selfish intentions behind it), it just made things worse. Instead, I had to leave myself open-minded and ready to experience what came my way. I didn’t learn this through experimentation or changing my approach or anything… it just happened 😊

Sometimes, I would end up going to hackathons last minute or confirming meetings with people on-the-spot without preparation. I’d be worried about the lack of planning, but they would turn out surprisingly well. After this started to happen again and again, I realised the importance of not trying to plan out every last detail with other people.

My best memory of this was when I went to the QOSF Hackathon to learn about quantum computing. I had applied a while back, but I hadn’t heard from the organisers by the time I got to the day of the event. Three hours before the event, I get an email saying some people had cancelled so there were spots for me if I still wanted to apply.

Now I had an actual MOUNTAIN of work to get done that weekend, but in the end I just thought, “Hey, I might just end up meeting some interesting people, so let’s go and see what happens!” That unplanned decision was the start of some of my most unforgettable memories (for the better and worse 😁) in a long, long time because of the amazing people I met. My team learning complicated quantum stuff at the Hackathon. We met Mark (on the left) from Germany for the first time and he taught us all about long, weird German words! 😂

At the end of the weekend, we were stressed out because we were struggling to run our experiment on the comparative efficiencies of quantum and classical machine learning categorisation algorithms (y’know… as one does 😉). But that brings me to the other thing I learned about relationships; it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey along the way.

It wasn’t the final presentation we made at the Hackathon that helped us bond… it was all the fun along the way of figuring out complicated math at the same time as the solution to that darn riddle or Hangman game! An even better example of this lesson was my experience of actually going on a journey, realising the destination was terrible, and still loving it anyways.

My best friend and I decided to go to an internship fair that was happening in Toronto, while we still lived in Waterloo. We’d never been to another city by ourselves, but we thought we might as well take the risk and see what happens. “What could possibly go wrong?” I thought… and then everything proceeded to go wrong 😅.

We got stuck in traffic, we got soaked by rain, we got lost, we were late, there weren’t many people there, and other assorted disasters occured. We ended up spending 15 minutes at the event for 6 hours of travelling. And it. was. AMAZING. It was the best day of my life! I’m serious. I wasn’t worried about the internship fair turning out badly in the slightest, because I didn’t care about that destination.

That day, all that I remember is the amazingness of having my best friend there with me as I went through those bad times. *Let me tell you, there is nothing better than random philosophical conversations about the vein patterns of leaves with someone you trust to pass the time in a traffic jam 😀 It wasn’t the destination that made the day great, but the journey along the way.

As I started to chase these unplanned journeys, I started to develop better and better relationships with others. In the moment, I never knew it, but looking back I realise how insanely valuable it was to have people crazy enough to support me through all of life’s craziness. That really showed itself when I started working on Prohibio Health, that project that we took to the DMZ.

I had never thought it was possible for me to do something meaningful like that. Not at the age 16. And maybe at the time, it wasn’t possible for me to do what we did with Prohibio. I don’t believe that was because I didn’t have the capability to do so, but because of the sheer amount of time, trust, and support it takes to develop ambitious goals like this. Had I not had my amazing team, none of the magic that happened at Prohibio would have been possible.

My magical co-conspirators at Prohibio Health :-)

And if Prohibio hadn’t happened… well, I never would’ve realised how I’m capable of much more than I ever could’ve imagined. We never would’ve been the only highschool-based team in Microsoft’s Open AI Challenge. We never would’ve made it to a real startup accelerator at the DMZ. My team at Prohibio taught me to dream higher than I ever would’ve at the start of the year. But they were also the people crazy enough to make those dreams come true :-)

I’m just enjoying the mushy stuff for a second 😂

But that’s enough mushy stuff for one yearly review. To get out of mushy mode, I want to talk about all the practical lessons on work from the past year.



4.1 Finding the Key to Working Hard Consistently

Throughout the year, I’ve had a lot of crazy opportunities like Prohibio. But none of those would have ever been possible if I hadn’t built the right foundations to be able to work hard. My theory on the exact elements needed is that motivation sparks hard work and then work ethic keeps the fire going. Luckily for me, I had some of both at the start of 2019 and then developed them more as the year went on.

I already had motivation to do more than just perform decently in school as I started 2019; I wanted to perform well in school. 😉 That wasn’t the best, but it was a good start. I consistently worked hard to achieve those goals (although they weren’t the best goals to help me grow) without needing others to tell me what to do. And in terms of work ethic, I didn’t have any productive techniques, but I could make up for that in sheer effort.

My motivation started to change (for the better) as I prioritised long-term goals over short-term ones. Yes, I had to get the chemistry worksheet done for tomorrow… but it wasn’t as important as building coding skills that would help me get to the universities and careers I wanted to. Then, in terms of work ethic, I experimented more and more with tools to unlock productivity like never before.

I started creating reflections and checklists every day to track goals, I started to document long-term plans, I stopped spending time on social media altogether, etc. With every iteration, my experiment would bring me closer to being in control of my actions and my time to maximise the goals I chose for myself. But I couldn’t have said, “I’ll build this fundamental skill on Monday, that one on Tuesday, …” These take a long, long time to develop, so I just had to stick with all the challenges and rewards. I still continue to do so.

I emphasise consistency and continuity because as soon as you overcome the hurdle of getting started, the second-hardest part is to keep the good habits going consistently. The only way you raise your limits is by always working right up to them. If for even a single month in the entire year, I had stopped developing my motivation and work ethic… well, firstly it would be really hard to get the momentum going again, but also that month would also be really boring… 😄

And in the end, as you frantically scramble to meet deadlines again and again, eventually the pain and necessity forces you to find ways to make life easier. You become more effective at doing what you do. And you can thank evolution for that! Imagine having to run from lions every day and you didn’t develop any stamina 😱.

That being said, since I was also developing motivation at the same time as getting better from the frantic scrambles, I just took on larger and larger challenges after each period of growth. It’s not like life gets much easier. It’s just that you’re able to deal with more and more, even if it IS still just as hard. I remember the most productive time periods this year were when I just stopped thinking and got in the rhythm of constantly improving and taking on harder challenges.



4.2 Act First, Think Later *Certain Restrictions Apply

I realised that it was so important to stop hesitating and just act because of this. I particularly have a tendency to think too much about all the possible options before making a decision, so it was even more important for me to develop this skill. Of course, there are times when you should carefully think through an action… for instance, you’d never want to flip a coin to decide whether you wanted to study business or genetics in university or anything… 😕

But I found those key decision-making moments in life are rarer than I thought. In the day-to-day, I made a lot more decisions that I was just thinking too much about for no reason. That meant that the hardest part of getting something done was just starting. Instead, I should have just acted first and figured the rest out later.

I think the biggest reward of working like this was the DMZ. My team and I lived in Waterloo at the time we applied and when I told them about the opportunity, their first thoughts were, “How are we going to get to Toronto?” My reaction was, “That’s a then problem.” 😊 Unfortunately, then problems have an irritating habit of becoming now problems, so we had to scramble to find accomodation over the summer. I still think the troubles were worth the opportunity though!

But this way of working isn’t only useful for large, consequential actions. More often, it’s just helpful to find a bit of extra motivation to get done smaller things that combine together to have a helpful impact. Often times, I reasoned myself out of doing something because the chances of rewards seemed small. But eventually I learned that if an action has great upside and little downside, I should do it even if the chances of the reward seem low.

That’s how I started habits like reflecting for a few minutes on my day or forced myself to go beyond my comfort zone to face fears like public speaking. The downsides of doing those things were a few minutes of my time. But if I did them right, I would increase my productivity or presentation skills a lot!

One of the most useful things we did at TKS to help create this tendency for action were ‘Discomfort Challenges.’ We just went about doing things that made us uncomfortable to get rid of fear and hesitation. That’s how I ended up singing Disney songs in public, auditioning for standup comedy routines, or just dressing up as Mr. Clean in school. 😅

Every time I did these challenges, I would realise that there really wasn’t much risk in getting out of my comfort zone. If it went badly, I would have better trained my instinct to not spend too much time hesitating and if it went well, I would have gotten over my fears of perceived risk by realising it’s actually not that bad!



4.3 Trusting the Benefits of Hard Work

After dealing with my tendency to think and hesitate too much, I was ready to take action on more and more problems. The issue then became how I went about doing that. My logical, goal-oriented brain immediately tended to search for potential optimisations for whatever I was doing. That’s good because it helps with iterative improvements (like those that helped develop my work ethic), but bad because not every problem can be optimised.

What I had to realise was that sometimes, the key to success was just to put in some good, old-fashioned hard work. No top 10 tricks or life hacks. Just a lot of determination and effort. Paul Graham even pointed out the source of this instinct; in school, we’ve been trained to optimise for hacking bad tests to get good grades, so we think every challenge in life is another test to hack.

But you can’t always hack something, nor should you. Every project you speed through and half-effort now to get it over with is an injury to the future you. The first time I built my website, I just scrappily searched through a bunch of different tutorials and put something together. I didn’t really learn that many skills, which just wasted my time and meant that I couldn’t be useful for future projects.

So THEN, I went back to the drawing board… or website board 😉… and learned web development from its fundamentals when I made website 2.0. But I just chose to use templates, instead of building something of my own, so that was another month wasted. So NOW, I have to go back to web development in 2020, because I tried to hack my hacking when I needed to just put effort into my hacking. Imagine how much better it would’ve been to just do it right the first time…

The problem is that a more valuable action usually has a longer delay before its reward. Otherwise, everyone would do it and it wouldn’t really be more valuable. At any given time, I could have chosen to go learn web development deeply... OR I could just work on the essay that’s due on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I always prioritised the short-term deadline over the long-term reward.

And I can’t even blame my brain for getting confused! Whenever the deadlines come up, they seem so important! But over the course of a lifetime, you have lots of deadlines that seem urgent for a very short period of time and baseline priorities that always get less attention.

Any individual deadline doesn’t matter much over a lifetime, but longterm commitments do.

I’ve only started to learn all the effects of this in my day-to-day life. I’ve often noticed that I sacrificed prioritising relationships with friends and family in exchange for meeting a few deadlines. I’ll have to keep working to counter my brain’s instincts by realising any one deadline likely isn’t that important given the thousands before it that weren’t. They might seem like huge priorities in the moment, but I just need to step back and gain a little big perspective. 😊

And speaking of perspectives, I think many of the most life-changing lessons I’ve had in 2019 were from listening to others’ perspectives. Specifically, I think the biggest part of developing my toolset for viewing life this year came from hearing others’ philosophies - including everyone from ancient Greeks to modern business magnates.

Now if you know me, you’re probably thinking, “Wait… you? Philosophy??? 😮” And you’d be right to wonder how practical, science-loving me could ever stand a discourse on the moral truths of metaphorical cheerios in a universe of fruit loops. But jokes aside, I actually discovered that philosophy has a lot more practical uses than I could’ve imagined. So I’ve learned more about philosophy this year than ever! (although zero isn’t a high bar to top 😅)

There’s this entire branch of philosophy dedicated to principles on how to live life. And when life is currently featuring me losing my mind trying to call lawyers on their fax machines like a regular human being… I could use a little bit of someone else taking over the wheel. 😄 Like a more rational person having some control.



5.1 Learning to Control Myself

For creatures that place an emphasis on our rational, thinking brains, we sure do have a habit of giving in to our primitive instincts. I don’t know about you, but I’ve sure had those moments where I madder than mad or sadder than sad in reaction to something that literally won’t matter in a few hours from now. Turns out philosophers have thought about that for millennia and they even wrote down their insights just for me! 🎉

Well, maybe not JUST for me, but it still felt like they’d found the exact pieces of advice to help me with my life thousands of years later 😀. The most useful philosophy I’ve come across about these tiny worries was from a stoic slave from Rome, Epictetus. To put it simply, his lesson was: if it’s in your control, why worry? If it’s out of your control, why worry?

At first, this sounds a little weird, but think about it. Say you were hypothetically panicking for the test tomorrow (y’know, hypothetically… not like that ever happened to me 😉). Well, why worry about it if you could just study harder for it? You’d just be losing time you could spend studying. Then say you wrote the test, but weren’t sure about that last question. Well, you have no power to change what you wrote now… so why worry about it? Things can’t be any other way.

So if you’ve been following along, just why worry in general??? There’s never going to be a situation you don’t control or not control - it has to be one of them. So now, I just go about reminding myself of good old Epictetus and his semi-wiseguy principles whenever I’m getting worked up about something that doesn’t matter!

It took a while to train this habit, but WOW is the difference ever obvious. EVERY single time I walk into school, it’s the first thing that greets me: “SoWhat’dYouGetOnThatLastQuestionTo… OhNoIThinkIMessedUpOnThe… I’mLiterallySoNotReadyForNextPeriod… MyLifeSucks!!!” Sometimes, people bring over all those worries to me. I just look at them, grin, and say, “Oh well! 😊” I don’t know if they think I’m cool or crazy or both…

Sometimes, the situations when I need to count on this aren’t so light-hearted. For instance, I’ve had a lot of worries about my family moving. We’ve moved a lot - a few times across cities, but even more around schools. I used to be worried about losing friends every single time. Then, I realised that the whole thing was out of my control so there was no point in worrying at all.

Looking back, the key moment was two weeks after we’d moved to Toronto. My mother suddenly announced that she was considering getting a job in Atlanta, Georgia, so we might have to move again. At the beginning of 2019, I would’ve thrown a tantrum. This time, I laughed and said, “But mother, why only across North America?! Let’s go for an adventure! You should try to get a job in Europe, at least!”

I think what had changed about me was that I had gotten used to things ending, whether they be relationships, experiences, or anything else. I was starting and finishing new chapters of life so often, I thought why mourn the end instead of celebrating a new beginning? Or even celebrating the end?? It’s just another part of the cycle anyways.

If you think about it, how much sense does it make to celebrate birthdays? We’re just celebrating aging… and I think it’s still okay for me to say aging is bad in 2019 😂 On the other hand, we mourn death—the end to all aging. A little selfish in just considering our loss instead of the dead people’s gain, don’t you think?

I’m not really the kind for theoretical debates on ethical concerns, however. So instead of worrying about death, I started thinking about practical ways of coping with the emotional overloads of moving, ending relationships, etc. I remember just being hit with a wave of nostalgia in June, after TKS had ended, because I missed the environment of crazy growth so much. But then, my time at the DMZ started up and brought another adventure! Time after time, I’ve learned to look beyond sad endings to happy beginnings.



5.2 Learning to Adapt Myself

In contrast, I’ve also learned about the power of not having control. Of not always resisting the floodwaters of worries and loss, but instead adapting to whatever comes my way. I don’t think my greatest lesson this year was to develop resiliency against tough times. It was to develop adaptability to changing times. The most powerful skill isn’t to hold strong through life’s challenges, but to adapt to whatever life throws at you.

That idea originates from the Daoist philosopher Lao Tzu in ancient China. He only ever wrote one book of his lessons and in it he described the strongest substance he could think of. It wasn’t a hard mineral like diamond. Instead, he described water.

Water constantly bends and flows around whatever obstacle comes in its way. Eventually, it can erode even the hardest of rocks (including diamond, according to Stack Exchange 😉). Abstract philosophy aside, this is how Doaists try to live life. They believe you shouldn’t be resilient to change but adapt to it like water. You should flow around new challenges in a way where your responses to them seem effortless.

One of the keys to doing this is to not be afraid to take your own paths. To really be adaptable, you have to be willing to go in any direction—even if it seems to be leading away from conventional security. Most people don’t work this way. They go about life always mitigating risk. And that’s not a bad thing. It means that they have a pretty good chance of having a comfortable, secure life.

But if you flow like water, you have to accept the risks of occasionally ending up in rapids. It’s all fine as long as you’re flowing. As long as you’re not stagnant. When you make changes and adapt, that means trying to optimise for success instead of mitigating risk. As Vinod Khosla says, “the consequence of mitigating risk is to make success inconsequential.”

You could go about life with the rigid path of becoming a doctor, but you’ll only ever have the likelihood of being as successful as the typical doctor. Or, you could try to forge your own path as some crazy entrepreneur and have a lot more risk, but you’ve optimised success to the point of being like Elon Musk on the off chance you end up succeeding.

It was hard for me to understand this at first. I’d been surrounded by security for so long because of my parents meeting every little need I ever had, that I couldn’t realistically imagine another path out there. But paths in life are a lot more flexible than you think, so long as you’re willing to pursue what you love even when the going gets tough.

After starting to better understand this, I was finally able to consider what I wanted to do in that university place adults kept asking me about, or even worse the far-off land called ‘careers.’ 😬 Before, I didn’t even have the scope to imagine the choices I had. Now, I was at least starting to see all the places the water could flow, so I could weigh the downsides and upsides of each option.



5.3 Learning to Understand Myself

Given these drastically different philosophies (in addition to all the others I was exposed to), I was starting to see my beliefs on a more complete spectrum instead of scattered data points. The more I learned, the more I realised I still had to figure out. But I think I’ve pieced together enough of the puzzle to have an idea of what my values are and the general things I want to work on in life as a result.

The first thing I’ve realised is that I didn’t like how many people define happiness. The stereotypical ‘happy life’ is that life with million-dollar cars, million-dollar houses, and million-dollar food. How can all three of those have the same value??? Something has GOT to be wrong there. 😕

Instead, I think my happiness revolves around making a difference in others’ lives. Sure, it’s great to get results after some good work, but I feel even better when I’m able to be a valuable part of others’ lives. That also has a disadvantage, however, because one of my greatest fears is letting down the people I’m closest to, which has a habit of happening every once in a while.

So yes, even getting something as small as a smile and ‘thank you’ from someone I held a door for can make me happier, but I don’t want to be holding doors for the rest of my life. 😁 Instead, my definition of success is to make a meaningful impact on the people around me and the people that come after me.

You can say that sounds cheesy, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about it. I think it reflects what I want to work on well because I’m a very results-oriented person. I like to learn and explore, not for the sake of learning or exploring but for the sake of doing. On the other hand, it also reflects values like how helping others makes me happy. And there are plenty of opportunities out there to help.

I’m really glad I spent time learning about the problems people face in developing countries around the world, because it gives me a reminder of how close I could have been to that reality. My parents worked hard their entire careers in India, just to give it all up and move to a developed country so my brother and I could have greater opportunities. That made me lucky enough to be literally one in tens of thousands of people.

The world gave me its everything in putting me in that lucky position. So I want to give the world my everything back. I could have easily been one of the other tens of thousands stuck in a cycle of poverty in the part of the world where I’m from. I statistically SHOULD have been in that position! But if there’s one thing I’ve realised over the past year, it’s the sheer disbelief in all that I’ve been gifted with.

So if I come across as too idealistic when dreaming about making a greater change, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. It’s like the world’s screaming at me to do something bigger and I can’t help but listen.

I know it’ll be a long, hard road to achieve that vision of success, with a lot of challenges and risks along the way. I certainly HAVEN’T got all the tools and skills I need to get there. Additionally, given my family’s background of finally gaining opportunities from pursuing conventional security and mitigating risk, I definitely have my work cut out for me in getting over the risk-aversion instincts to pursue bigger opportunities.

I guess the only option is to start now and see where I’ve ended up in another year 😉



My Biggest Experiences in 2019:



So that’s the story of 2019 in the life of a teenager worrying about the world going to the dogs. *And Tide Pods. Tide pods were also concerning 😅 To summarise the experiences I talked about, I wanted to show you an experiment I started over the course of this year:

Every day of 2019, I tracked my emotions. The worst day was a bad day and the best day broke my system of categorisation!
  • March 17 to April 3, 2019: Working on my first website
  • May 16, 2019: My interview at TDLab
  • June 18, 2019: Making it to the Top 25 at Microsoft’s Open AI Challenge
  • June 20, 2019: The best day of my life. That trip to the internship Fair in Toronto with my best friend.
  • July 22 to August 22, 2019: Making it to the Top 5 at the DMZ
  • August 9 to August 16, 2019: The week I interviewed over 20 people in 5 days.
  • September 7, 2019: The start to my second year at TKS.
  • September 19, 2019: Dressing up to school as Mr. Clean
  • September 20 to September 25, 2019: Attending Elevate Canada
  • October 1, 2019: The worst day I remember. The day we moved from Waterloo to Toronto
  • October 27, 2019: Singing a Disney song in public
  • November 11, 2019: Finishing my second website
  • November 23, 2019: Starting my current productivity system (daily goals + checklists + timed work sessions)
  • December 15, 2019: Auditioning for a standup comedy routine




Advice to my Old Me:

It is finally past midnight on this year-end reflection train (or I guess year-beginning? 😄), so I can wrap this up. If I think back to the old me on January 1st, 2019, the first thing I think about is how he had a really short attention span… so I’ll keep this short:
  1. Cherish every single relationship in your life so, so much, because you never know when it’ll be gone (and I do).
    1. But also don’t be weirdly intense about it.
  2. Things are going to completely bomb enough to nearly devastate you. Just know that you’ll survive and eventually become a bomb-defusal expert ;-)
  3. There’ll be a lot of distractions and worries. Learn to control yourself and remember the goals:
    1. Help people, be a good person, keep growing, have fun.


So that’s my heavy look back at 2019. It sounds so cliché to say this, but I actually think I’ve grown more this year than every other year of my life combined. Oh well… guess it’s just a higher bar for me to develop myself like never before and for Tide to release a more chokable product for teenagers next year ;-)

- Madhav Malhotra
Thursday, 02-Jan-2020 06:59:34 GMT+0000

About me

I'm a student training to solve globally neglected issues!